THE HALF CENTURIES of top drummers Zak Crawley (76) and Dom Sibley (50) provided England with a welcome return to the fold on the fourth day of play at Ageas Bowl, Southampton.
However, with five wickets falling in the last 75 minutes thanks to a Caribbean-style rhythm attack (WI), the first test is now in balance with the game of the last day scheduled to end on Sunday.
Responding to the hosts’ first hit of 204 hits, the visitors were then sacked for 318, holding a good lead of 114 points. When England started their pursuit on day three, the team led by Ben Stokes ended with 15 losses, 99 points behind.
When Saturday resumed, England rallied to a tempting 284 for eight on the stumps, setting up a last day of exciting action.
Rory Burns and Dom Sibley found the score easier in the Saturday morning session by adding 47 in the first hour. Spinner Roston Chase ended their opening partnership because he had Burns (42) caught by Joel Campbell.
Sibley patiently struck and secured his half-centurion before he was given a lifeline. Against the stimulator Shannon Gabriel, the English drummer dragged the ball on his stumps only for the third referee to signal that Gabriel crossed the line by a fine margin. Two bullets later, Gabriel tasted sweet revenge by having Sibley taken behind by Shane Dowrich.
Joe Denly entered the game, who struggled from the start, but climbed to 29 before handing over a Chase delivery to WI skipper Jason Holder (151/3).
Entering drummer Crawley settled in well and got a taste for the WI rhythm attack. Crawley struck on all fours in his 76 of 127 stroke. He scored the vast majority of his races outside the box office while he and Ben Stokes built a 98-race partnership.
Holder silenced the pair as Stokes went on the second slide to fall to his opponent for the second time before Crawley offered Joseph a return six balls later (253/5).
With the suppression of the English first order, WI began to press harder. Alzarri Joseph then played Joss Buttler for only nine points on the board (265/6). Gabriel was unleashed again in the last 30 minutes and dominated Dom Bess (three points) and Ollie Pope (12) to close the penultimate day out of 284 for eight.